POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Damon Overton was all but isolated from his Ashford teammates while trying to work the basketball to them against Davenport’s tallish 1-3-1 zone defense Wednesday.
The Saints never solved the Panthers’ zone and went down quietly in a 63-46 first-round loss at the NAIA Division II National Championship.
Ashford (23-10), which closed by losing three of its last four games, maintained only a point-a-minute pace for the first 30 minutes and finished shooting 31 percent from the field with a dozen turnovers.
At the heart of the Saints’ woes was Overton being overwhelmed all over the perimeter by Davenport’s forwards and centers. The Panthers’ big men combined to serve as a towering presence at the top of their zone.
“It was tough trying to peak over those 6-foot-7, 6-8 guys,” Overton said. “It was hard to increase your passing angles and get through their zone. Give all credit to them. They played fantastic defense.”
As Overton alluded to, Ashford’s guards also found it difficult to penetrate against the Panthers’ zone.
“Every time I tried to drive, they would collapse,” said Overton, who had a team-high 15 points. “They were athletic. They weren’t big, slow men. They had good lateral movement.”
Ashford coach Oliver Drake fully expected to see a zone out of No. 9-seeded Davenport (28-6) and felt the Saints would be able to handle it.
“(The zone) was effective, and I’m not sure why,” Drake said. “I thought we were prepared for it. But obviously we weren’t prepared. I take all the blame. I didn’t have the guys ready to go. It’s disappointing to see the way we played. It’s going to haunt me for a while.”
“The coaches actually had them scouted to a T,” AU forward Anthony Woods said. “It’s all on the players. We didn’t come out with the right mentality. Once we got the at-large bid, we were all excited to come here and play. I had great feeling before the game. But we didn’t show up.”